Please select your home edition
Edition
Fever-Tree 728x90

Sailing boat handling- 'Back and fill' using prop-walk

by John Jamieson on 22 Feb 2013
It’s getting narrow - Looking ahead, would you be able to turn in your own length if you had to? SW
This one is for the first time owner of a sailing boat: You enter a narrow canal that leads to a marina when all of a sudden, you need to turn around 90° or more inside a space just a bit longer than the length of your sailing boat! How can you do this?

Determining your 'prop-walk'
First you need to determine whether your boat has a right- or left-handed screw. Most single screw boats have right-handed screws, but you must be sure of this before you can master boat handling.

Imagine that you are able to stand behind your boat and watch her propeller. Your sailing partner stays aboard at the controls. As soon as your sailing partner places the shifter into idle ahead propulsion, note the direction of rotation of the screw. If the propeller rotates to the right in ahead propulsion, you have a right-hand propeller (also called a 'right-hand screw'); if it rotates to the left in ahead propulsion, you have a left-handed propeller (also called a 'left-hand screw').

Note also that the stern of the boat will tend to 'walk' in the direction of rotation. Let's discuss just right-handed props because most boats have these installed. In ahead propulsion with the rudder centered, our right-handed prop rotates to the right. The stern of the boat will 'walk' in this direction and the bow of the boat will move in the opposite direction. Now let's see what happens in reverse propulsion...

If your sailing partner shifts into reverse propulsion, the right-handed screw would rotate in the opposite direction, or to the left. The stern of the boat will 'walk' to the left and the bow will move in the opposite direction. Confirm what 'hand' of prop your sailboat has with a simple test. In an open area, shift your engine into idle reverse propulsion. Remember that a right-hand screw walks to the left when you are in reverse (a left-hand screw will walk to the right when you are in reverse).


How to turn a tight situation:

Let's say we are aboard a sailboat with a right-hand screw. We need to turn 90° to the right inside a narrow canal with space just a bit more than the length of our boat. We first move over near the left side of the narrow canal.

Use a technique called 'backing and filling' to pivot your boat in a tight circle. Hold the wheel hard over to the right (or tiller hard over to the left) throughout the maneuver. Do not move the wheel or tiller (Illustration Step 1)

Next, give a short burst (about one second) of forward propulsion. Shift into neutral for one second. Then, give a short burst of reverse propulsion (about one second). Shift into neutral for one second. Continue this sequence (Illustrations Step 2 and Step 3).

Each time you give a short burst of forward propulsion, powerful discharge current strikes the rudder blade and causes the bow to pivot to the right (and the stern to pivot to the left). Our objective will be to stay in one spot without surging ahead; so take care not to leave the shifter in gear too long.

Then, shift into neutral for about one second. Next, shift into reverse propulsion and give a short powerful burst of about one second. This forces the discharge current up toward the right side of the hull, stops the forward motion, and forces the stern to 'walk' to port--just what we want when we pivot to starboard (see Illustration).

Practice this maneuver in open areas before you get into a confined space. Learn how your boat reacts in different conditions of wind and current. That way, once you find that you must pivot in a confined space, you will be well prepared to execute this maneuver with confidence.

Don't forget, you will only be able to 'walk the prop' in one direction. So if, in the above case, the required turn is to the left, you can do it quite successfully by turning 270 degrees to the right. Patience is the essence.

John Jamieson (Captain John) with 25+ years of experience shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need for safer sailing worldwide. Visit his website at www.skippertips.com. Sign up for the Free, highly popular weekly 'Captain John's Sailing Tip-of-the-Week'. Discover how you can gain instant access to hundreds of sailing articles, videos, and e-Books!

PredictWind.comZhik AkzoNobelb 660x82Mackay Boats

Related Articles

41st Annual Wooden Boat Festival - Overall report
Tall ships and everything in between—North America’s largest wooden boat festival celebrates its 41st year Tall ships, paddleboards, kayaks, tugboats, and everything in between—North America’s largest wooden boat festival celebrates its 41st year on September 8–10, 2017. Demonstrations, presentations, plays, music, dancing, and great food—this is a weekend of fun for all ages
Posted on 17 Aug
Coast Guard, locals launch search after empty, homemade raft found
Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England also activated the Rhode Island Taskforce for assistance. The Coast Guard launched a search for a possible person in the water Saturday after an unmanned, homemade raft was found drifting in Mt. Hope Bay, near the mouth of the Taunton River on the Massachusetts and Rhode Island border. A good Samaritan alerted Coast Guard watchstanders to the empty raft at about 7 a.m.
Posted on 13 Aug
Early-storms one indicator of active Atlantic hurricane season ahead
Today NOAA issued the scheduled update for its 2017 hurricane season outlook. Today NOAA issued the scheduled update for its 2017 hurricane season outlook. Forecasters are now predicting a higher likelihood of an above-normal season, and they increased the predicted number of named storms and major hurricanes. The season has the potential to be extremely active, and could be the most active since 2010.
Posted on 12 Aug
Keep the water out with Zhik’s new Superthermal Hydrobase
The lower arm and leg of the new Superthermal Hydrobase is made from a water-repellent, stretch woven fabric We’ve all done it - and fished a rope out of the water, pushed the rudder down or stepped down the slipway one foot too far and gained that unwanted wet sleeve or leg.
Posted on 9 Aug
Coast Guard searching mid-Atlantic region for 73-year-old sailor
The Coast Guard is searching for an overdue French sailor between North Carolina and New York City Wednesday. The Coast Guard is searching for an overdue French sailor between North Carolina and New York City Wednesday. Watchstanders in the fifth Coast Guard District Command Center in Portsmouth received a report at 7 a.m. that a 73-year-old sailor named Joseph Calland aboard the 39-foot sailboat Nennette is overdue.
Posted on 3 Aug
Int Moth Worlds - Zhik returns to its spiritual home at 2017 Worlds
Zhik is returning to its roots as the official clothing sponsor of the 2017 McDougall McConaghy Moth World Championships Zhik, the innovative sailing apparel specialist, is returning to its roots as the official clothing sponsor of the 2017 McDougall McConaghy Moth World Championships. And, ten years on, the Moths are returning to their spiritual home on Lake Garda. Zhik and the International Moth class are virtually synonymous with each other.
Posted on 20 Jul
Cheeki Rafiki - Douglas Innes to face retrial over manslaughter
Douglas Innes to face retrial over manslaughter The Director of Stormforce Coaching, the company that ran Cheeki Rafiki, is set to face retrial for manslaughter over the deaths of the four crew. They were 700nm from Nova Scotia, returning to Southampton after racing in Antigua when the keel feel off. It is said that previous groundings had weakened the keel bolts....
Posted on 17 Jul
Rytov continues to defend lead at 2017 Melges 20 European Championship
On the eve of final day at Melges 20 European Championship Russia's Igor Rytov & his Russian Bogatyrs remains in command On the eve of the final day at the 2017 Melges 20 European Championship, Russia's Igor Rytov and his Russian Bogatyrs remains in command. Thanks to a very consistent performance thus far, they are inching ever closer to capturing the top European title and trophy.
Posted on 15 Jul
Get better wave forecasts from PredictWind and ECMWF
Predictwind is well-known for accurate wind forecasts but now leads the way with accurate wave forecasts PredictWind is well known for its world leading accurate wind forecasts, but did you know Predictwind also leads the way with accurate wave forecasts?
Posted on 12 Jul
Centennial Transat builds bridge to a flying future
The Queen Mary 2 won its battle with the four 30-meter trimarans, as expected, in upwind conditions for the sailboats The race was timed to mark a hundred years since American troops arrived on the shores of France in WW1, and it also brought together all of the fastest Ultimate trimarans for the first time as the class begins to take flight.
Posted on 7 Jul